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What are the meanings of some common surnames?

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Quick Answer

Smith, the most common surname in the United States according to census data, means "one who works with metal." The second most common surname, Johnson, means "son of John." The third most popular surname, Williams, means "son of William."

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The popularity of surnames has remained relatively stable according to U.S. Census data. The three most prevalent surnames in the United States have not changed since the earliest reported data collections.

The surname Smith isn't just common in America. It is also the most common surname in both the United Kingdom and Australia. This name originates from an Old English word, "smite," which means "strike."

Johnson is the second most common surname in America and the ninth most common in the United Kingdom. Although Johnson is an English name, it has Latin and Greek origins. The given name from which this surname is derived, John, is from the Latin Johannes and the Greek Yohanan.

The last name Williams is the second most common surname in New Zealand and the third most popular in both Wales and the United States. William, the common name from which this name originates, is a Germanic name. The German version of this name, Wilhelm, means, "desire for protection" as "wil" means "desire" and "helm" means "helmet."

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